When I first left my ex --note I said I left, meaning it it was my choice, not something thrust on me against my will -- I was resentful of being a single parent. When my mother --who had been a single parent of young children herself -- warned me that it was really a lot harder than I imagined, I blew her off. "Yeah," I said, "But I don't plan on being single for long." And I didn't. I figured 4-6 months and I'd find my next true love/replacement Daddy and move on. Except I didn't, and Thank God for that.
When I was freshly single I attended a preschool party for my oldest child who was then three and his brother barely 6 months old. A mother came up to chit-chat with me and told me a "funny" story about a friend of hers. The friend and her husband got sick at the same time and just had to let the kids run wild eating cereal all day, which was all the kids could get for themselves. But what could they do? They got sick at the same time!! Hahahahaha. I just looked at her and let the silence speak for itself -- yes, when I get sick, that is how it always is. Now imagine having hemorrhoid surgery while you are home alone with two kids, neither of which can go to the bathroom unassisted. Not so funny now, is it????
In other words, I was resentful of the station I chose for myself. I was expecting a white knight to come sweep me away, except they didn't come. Now, it's not that I didn't date, I just didn't move in with any of them. I might not believe in divine intervention as a rule, but the fact that I didn't commit to someone right away is proof that someone up there looks out for drunks, fools, and single moms on occasion.
The truth is that I am so much better off because I didn't meet someone right away. I had never lived alone. In my adult life, when I was single I had roommates by choice. I hated being alone and wanted no part in it. Then I became a single mother and had to live alone. Shared parenting is a mixed blessing, because you miss your kids like crazy when they are gone, but you also need a break from the intensity of being a single parent occasionally, too, especially if (like me) you have no family in town to spell you. Those little lilliputians will take you down if you lose your edge. I had to learn to live with the loneliness that crashed in when the kids were at Daddy's, as well as how to survive being alone with the boys as the only parent. I didn't want to. I wanted desperately for someone to fix everything for me, but in reality that was the last thing I needed.
What I have learned from being a single parent the past four years or so is that I have no desire to compromise. I have learned to like who I am without being half of a couple. I have learned the benefits of having the freedom to make plans to go out with a girlfriend or just to order take out without consulting anyone else first. I like not sharing the remote just as much as I like knowing that I am capable and strong. It took me a really long time to realize that and to stop resenting the fact that I was single.
Now, I'm not saying that every person out there should run out and get divorced, not by a long shot. I realize this is not the ideal situation. But I also realize that I don't need to be Mrs. Somebody to complete me. I don't need a man to take care of me. I can jump a car battery, do all my own lawn care (badly) and keep everyone mostly gruntled and dressed and fed. Companionship and adult conversation is necessary and vital, don't get me wrong, but it's nice to go to someone out of want for them, not need for them. It's nice to know I can stand on my own two feet.
I knew exactly what I wanted, and thank God I didn't get it. If I had gotten my way and met the next Mr. Right within my 4-6 month time frame, I would be miserable now, and my kids would be whack jobs. (for those of you who didn't study psychology in college, that's a technical term. It means whack job.) I would be miserable because at that time in my life I was just looking for someone who approximated my idea of husband material. I figured almost anyone would fit the bill. My kids would be whack jobs because it's one thing to have a string of serially monogamous relationships as an adult, but it wounds your children to create and destroy family units they are a part of. "Living together" is a fine test of a relationship before marriage if you don't have kids, but kids are emotionally committed once you bring someone around often enough.
I am not saying that single parents shouldn't date for their children's sake. That's straight up bullshit. Everyone deserves to find the person that can hold them at their weakest. I'm just saying that for me, my family unit is better off if I have a separation of my dating life and my family life. Not a total exclusion - I feel an overlap is okay - but the last things my kids or I need is a live-in boyfriend, no matter how much I have thought I needed it at particular moments in the past.
I'm also not saying other people can't hack mixing new families with old. Hell, I watched, "The Brady Bunch," I know it can be done. I just know me, and I know that right now my life is about all I can handle without the complications of being considerate to other people. You know, those major issues like what they want for dinner and if they have clean socks.
I needed to learn how to be a complete family with just myself and my boys before I brought someone else in to complete us. Instead of being defensive of my single status, I needed to feel complete as a flight of three. That took time. There is no shortcut to learning to be ok with yourself and your lot in life, you just have to do it until it becomes habit, then do it more until it becomes life. My life might not look like what my mother had dreamed for me when I was a child, but it doesn't suck either. Once you have come to terms with who you are as a single parent, you are able to appreciate the joys that come with it. And there are a lot of joys, one of which is not sharing the remote, ever. And once you have embraced your family as it is, only then can you look at adding to it. When you don't need someone to complete you, you can find someone to complement you.